TIFFIN, Ohio – Having to play from behind most of the game, the Truman Bulldogs remained perfect on the season with a dramatic 38-35 victory on the road over No. 12 Tiffin University on Saturday afternoon in a battle of undefeated teams.
The Bulldogs trailed 21-7, 28-14, 35-17 and 35-24 until a touchdown with 3:39 left to play. Dante Ruffin caught a two-yard pass which was followed by a successful onside kick recover, then a three-yard run by Cody Schrader with 26 seconds to play to put Truman in front for the first time on the afternoon.
Truman converted on two fourth down plays in their final drive to set up the winning touchdown.
Ruffin and Schrader each had two touchdowns apiece, Jaylen Jefferson added a 96-yard kick return for a touchdown and Josh Scheiderer hit from 46-yards for a field goal right before half to account for the Bulldog scoring.
Schrader finished with 164 yards rushing on 32 attempts. Nolan Hair completed 22 of 35 passes for 189 yards with Ruffin hauling in seven for 65 and Matt Hall five for 49.
Tiffin took the opening kickoff and marched down the field in 12 plays with quarterback Nick Watson finding Jalen Thomas for a 13-yard TD reception. That duo would hook up again after Ruffin reeled in a nine-yard pass from Hair to tie the game at seven.
Thomas scored on a 32-yard pass to make it 14-7 Tiffin then Conner Muldowney put the Dragons up 28-14 with an 11-yard TD catch.
On the ensuing kickoff, lighting struck again for Jefferson. The Bulldog returner raced up the far side of the field for a 96-yard kick return, his second of the season, to cut the lead back to seven midway through the second quarter.
Tiffin reestablished their two touchdown margin in the final minute of the half when James Dean hauled in a 14-yard TD pass from Watson.
Truman managed to squeeze points before the halftime gun as Scheiderer connected from 46-yards as Hair engineered a quick six-play, 34-yard drive to send Truman into the locker room down 28-17.
A four-play 69-yard drive ended with a four-yard run by Anthony Lowe to give Tiffin a 35-17 lead with 13:19 left in the third quarter.
Truman then was able to wear the vaunted run defense of Tiffin down. Schrader scampered in from 21-yards out to cap off an 11-play 60-yard drive to cut the lead to 35-24 on Truman’s next possession.
After a pair of punts and an interception on Truman’s next three drives, the defense held firm and forced four straight punts and only nine yards of offense in the Dragon’s final four possessions.
The Bulldogs got the ball with 8:09 left to play and went to work again in wearing down the Tiffin defense. Schrader gained 25 yards on the first two plays of the drive and after gaining three yards on third and two, Schrader got Truman into the redzone after catching a pass from Hair for 10 yards. A sack put Truman at third and 10 but on the play, a personal foul, roughing the passer call gave Truman a new set of downs. A pass interference call on the next play put the ball at the two and two plays later Ruffin brought down Hair’s TD pass to cut the lead to 35-30 with 3:26 to go.
The two-point play was no good and Scheiderer teed up the onside kick.
The Bulldogs recovered and with two timeouts in their pocket had plenty of time on the clock with the ball at midfield.
Facing a fourth and five from the 45, Hair and Ruffin connected for a 31-yard pass reception to move the chains and put the ‘Dogs at the 14. A second fourth down play saw Hair find Hall for seven yards, needing six, and Truman was at the Dragon’s three with 0:29 seconds showing on the clock.
Out of the timeout, Schrader went untouched off right tackle into the end zone and the two-point conversion was good to make it 38-35.
Tiffin only managed to get to their own 42 before time expired.
Quarterback Nick Watson had a career day for the Dragons. He was 30-of-39 for 367 yards and four touchdowns while Thomas caught 12 passes for 190 yards and two scores.
The Bulldogs complete the non-conference portion of their schedule with a 4-0 record and will welcome the 2019 league champion, Lindenwood to Stokes Stadium for the GLVC opener next Saturday night. The Lions used a similar comeback to upend the Bulldogs in 2019 with two touchdowns in the final three minutes and a 28-24 win. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.